Top 5 American Novels

hello happy August it's been a while since I've done a top five video but I am back and very ready to do a top five American novels list America is great right America is this big interesting place and because of that it has this big interesting canon of literature I think for a book to be a capital a capital and the American novel it doesn't just have to be a book written by an American author or it's not just a book set in America but it's a book that says something about America it speaks to a particular period in history and it sort of challenges something maybe there's there's something about it that just goes that little bit further and I think that's what makes some of these novels so long-standing even though they were written quite a while ago so let us jump in no particular order okay number one is on the road by Jack Kerouac first published in 1957 this is a really ugly movie edition of the book on the road is a book that I've adored since the first time I picked it up it is quite hard to get through Kerouac has a very unique style it's mostly autobiographical about Kerouac still in life and it details his journey across America so America is there as a subject matter as a theme but it's also about spirituality and it's about the self I think in American writing particularly by the old white males talking about yourself and thinking about yourself and where you are is an important theme but also just like drugs sex alcohol that kind of thing and it's about finding something freedom in a skip and it's it's on the road and now when this book was first published it really spoke to young people who were stuck in a kind of post-war America and maybe didn't have jobs and felt very locked in other thinkers but continues to speak to people around my age here still figuring life out so good the next book is one that was published in 1868 it is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and this is a children's classic really low kind of vintage edition so this is usually thought of as a children's book and I appreciate that I first read it as a novel not a child but that's okay better late than never and it's about the four March sisters major Bethany EMA and they are growing up during the u.s Civil War so that's a very important historical setting but I just I just adored this book I really adored I adored the sisters it has themes of family and romance and sort of janitor behaviors that are obviously very fixed at that time and Hingis book is more often thought of as a book for girls than a book for America or an American novel but I think it's really important and I think it's really important to include a female author within that really early period of American writing next is the color purple by Alice Walker first published in 1982 I've talked about this book so many times it's one of my all-time favorites published in the 1980s but it's set in the 1930s in the southern States of America and this book is really important to me is an American novel because it gives voice to the experience of an african-american woman living in America at that time pre civil rights movements on the first page the main character Celia is 14 years old and she gets ripped by her father she then gets forced into a marriage with a man who's only ever known as mister and this book is about her life and her hope on her self-worth that's what sisterhood and it's about joy and it's about love it's so important Alice Walker is so important as a black queer author and Celia is so important to me as the characters who definitely read this if you haven't already returning to the white male author we have F scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby first published in 1925 and I have the classic cover this book is arguably the American novel set in the Roaring Twenties the Jazz Age it's about the American dream or challenging the American dream it's about luxury and decadence and excess and disillusion I suppose or it's a really sad love story if you're more into that kind of thing but this book is so important in speaking to America about America the final book I want to mention is a book that I do and what I can't find it so it looks like this it's called Native some written by Richard Wright and first published in 1940 this is another novel by a black writer who gives voice to an african-american 20 year old called bigger thomas bigger lives in Chicago and like complete poverty but ends up getting a job with a white family then he commits a really really really violent crime and the rest of the story is just about how the end is inevitable because of beggar and him being a product of his environment and his upbringing and so crime and punishment for him are sort of shaped by this racial impoverished life that he has led thus far I hope that sort of does justice to the story of date of son because I really do love that book it sparked a lot of controversy continues to Richard Wright was a really interesting character as a man and I've been meaning to read more of his stuff but it's a really shocking book and it's really shocking when you remember that it was written in 1940 so it's so much before what we think of is like the civil rights movement period so it presents a very unflattering but probably a very realistic portrayal of America so those are my top five American novels right now obviously I have a lot more books to read so it's not definitive and I did just finish a wonderful wonderful book called stoner by John Williams that I mentioned months the months ago that I've been made to read I finally did read it and they loved it links to all the books I mentioned will be in the description you can check them out or if you've already read them let me know let's have a little talk if you think of them as American novels or our futures think of them as novel novels anyway Sunday summer in the city if you're going to summer in the city in London there's a booktube panel at 1:00 p.m. on sunday and i will be there i'll be speaking on it I'll be around on Saturday and Sunday to talk to you about books for other things or nothing long ad I hope to see you there that would be cool I will see you very soon thank you for watching good bye check out my bravery t-shirt years for only ten vines I am finally ready to sit down and do one of my most requested videos from the past few months and let us talk about my dissertation

23 thoughts on “Top 5 American Novels

  1. The best Americans are The Caatcher in the Rye, Atlas Shrugged, and a Streetcar named Desire.

  2. You seem obsessed with identity. Shouldn't the aesthetic quality of a book matter more that the fact that the author was a white male?

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  4. I would agree with Gatsby but my list would look somewhat different. I would consider putting a little known novel like Stoner by John Williams or the better known East of Eden by Steinbeck. I'd seriously consider something by Ray Bradbury, maybe Dandelion Wine. His writing is often times pure poetry and pure Americana. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is one of the most impressive, if not equally infuriating, novels I've read. I might even put Warlock by Oakley Hall, which is a wonderful American western I believe is even better than McMurtry's Lonesome Dove, or the great novel by the aforementioned John Williams, Butcher's Crossing. For horror, I would likely put The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It is a quiet masterpiece.
    I know most people would put To Kill a Mockingbird but, as good as it is, I don't feel it is one of the best.
    For war, I have to go with Michael Shaara's incredible novel The Killer Angels, about the Battle of Gettysburg. Compared to this, The Red Badge of Courage seems almost trite.
    For SF, nothing will top Earth Abides by George Stewart, a moving novel of an America ravaged by a plague that decimates all but a few. Many will find it much like Stephen King's The Stand, though I feel it is far superior and certainly more satisfying. King even acknowledged it did influence him.
    Anyways, thank you for your list and your video. Very well done!

  5. As an American: great job! You've picked some fantastic examples, and I think you're correct that great American novels are challenging in that they challenge aspects of society. I appreciate this. Would you be able to do this with Irish literature? (Perhaps you already have, I haven't poked through your whole channel.)

  6. One of my favorite "American Novels" is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

  7. I loved Stoner and Gatsby very much. If you want a few other suggestions for American books that left me feeling similarly: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines (I wept, just wept).  Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, and Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. All fairly short books by the way. And even though this next suggestion takes place mostly outside of U.S. I loved The Talented Mr. Ripley (so much better than the movie) by American author Patricia Highsmith (written in the 50's; such an amazing look into a shattered psychopath's mind).  

    Also, as for Gatsby, besides the themes of old money / new money, decadence, and the pre-depression American gluttony, I found something that made me go back and read it again, twice more in the same week.  Sorry hope this doesn't get too long, and maybe I'm not the first person to follow this path but I rarely see it mentioned, but when I got to the scene where Tom follows Mr. McKee in to the elevator lift, and then cut to him in McKee's room, and then in Penn Station… I thought 'what? what's going on here?'. That led me to a search on the internet trying to figure out what I was missing. Anyway for anyone who is interested, I found two papers written that helped explain this scene and a lot more about many of the characters and symbolism in The Great Gatsby. THIS kind of depth in a book is what really gets me excited.

    The Sexual Drama of Nick and Gatsby:

    Jordan Baker, Gender Dissent, and Homosexual Passing in The Great Gatsby:

  8. I was expecting
    Of Mice and Men… But still great selection of books!

  9. I love the Great Gatsby, But I disliked the latest movie, but you have a Great list!

  10. I totally agree with your choices, I absolutely love those books! Have you read "These is my words" and "The Things They Carried"? Those are also some of my favorites.

  11. I first read little women when I was about 10 and it really just resonated with me. It was the first book of that style which I had ever read (and still is one of the only books of that style which I've read) but I really appreciate it and the characters are wonderful and I just love it ^_^

  12. MERICA! I have to include,,,,,, "The red badge of courage" 😛 Oh yeah, a real coulourful war book. 🙂

  13. Your list is great! There are ones I would have swapped in/swapped out for a top five, but all of those are definitely worthy of being at the top tier of novels about the United States. If I were to include others, it would be The Grapes of Wrath, The Jungle, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Scarlet Letter, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I have also heard about the importance of Gone With the Wind (positively and negatively) and also Moby-Dick; yet, I haven't read them or studied them so I can't really say much of them.

    Most if not all of these are criticisms of the United States in some way. I would almost say that The Grapes of Wrath is a spiritual sequel to The Great Gatsby. The Great Gatsby is about glitz, glam, the high life, and the American Dream. The Grapes of Wrath is about how that brought us to the brink of despair, and how hard it is for anyone to ever again attain that American Dream, no matter how hard you fight for it. Both are really engaging for modern Americans, because both books may be set in the past, but they're more relevant than ever. The 1920s in Gatsby could easily be the 1980s, 90s, and the early 2000s. The Grapes of Wrath is relevant for anyone living in the US after 2008.

    The Scarlet Letter shows our less than desirable history, from a writer who himself is directly related to the tragedies. Huck Finn, Mockingbird, Tom's Cabin, and Caged Bird all deal with race relations. Uncle Tom's Cabin is typically seen as being one of the ten steps that led to the Civil War.

    The Jungle is a look at how the US treats immigrants, while also analyzing the awful nature of the meatpacking business of the time. Despite being pretty obvious Socialist propaganda, it has some really thrilling parts that really made an impact on the US.

  14. I think To Kill A Mockingbird should be in there somewhere. It is a wonderful book that I think does a very good job of representing America in that time.

  15. Have you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? I think you may enjoy it. It is very American. It speaks a lot to finding yourself and spiritually. It is a book I find myself reading when I am feeling low and lost. ☺

  16. Have you seen the webseries The March Letters? It's a modern adaptation of Little Women.

  17. I love death of a salesman for American literature, although a play not a novel 😉

  18. I could listen to you all day. The way you described all these books was so intelligent and articulate 😍

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